ON THE CLOCK
nytheatre.com review by Tim Douglas Jensen
On the Clock, a duet of darkly comedic one acts, both written by
Matthew Swan, is so much fun you will soon forget the heat (just dress
lightly and position yourself by a fan).
August 15, 2002
The first piece, Selma’s Break, directed by Swan, takes place in an office break room as Selma (Jessie Hutcheson) begins to crack under the pressure of her superiors’ evaluations and scrutiny, a confidence which she shares with a coworker, Renee (Linda S. Nelson). It is immediately evident that Swan is a talented playwright. His lines regarding sexual harassment and an over-stuffed tote bag are priceless (I won’t cheat him by divulging them here). The play’s strongest point is in capturing the freakish world Corporate America can become. I was slightly distracted, however, by the entrance of a third character, Pam (Lisa M. Perry). The only function Pam seems to serve is to represent the more "pro-establishment" side but an extremely short-slit skirt and a pair of roller skates betrays this. (I never understood why Tootie wore them on "The Facts of Life" and I don’t understand it here.) Also distracting is the choice to have Hutcheson direct most of her performance directly toward the audience. I’m not sure if this presentational style is a directing or acting choice but it seems out of place, especially when she repeats this style in the second play. Nelson is particularly engaging as the vice-pushing Renee.
The title may dictate the short length of this piece but it definitely could be explored and expanded.
The second one act, RX, concerns an overly-dedicated pharmacist named Bobby (performed by Swan) whose desire to be of service deeply entrenches him in the lives of a trio of customers (Hutcheson, Perry, and Jonathan Marc Sherman). Besides confirming his place as a strong comedy writer (a scene regarding a customer’s tell-tale itch had me laughing hard enough to bring tears), Swan carries RX with his performance as Bobby. His balance of intrusiveness and dopey charm could be difficult for some actors but this is well within his grasp and it makes Bobby an unlikely hero. He’s endearing even if he is obsessed with his world of Kit Kats, condoms and various health products.
The ensemble of actors works well under the solid direction of Carlo Vogel, who paces the piece masterfully. On the whole, On the Clock’s 45-minute running time seems much shorter.
So, if you are in need of a good laugh and want to experience truly clever theatre, I have a prescription for you: Go see On the Clock.